Calculating place-based transit accessibility: Methods, tools and algorithmic dependence


  • Christopher Higgins University of Toronto
  • Matthew Palm University of Toronto
  • Amber DeJohn University of Toronto
  • Luna Xi University of Toronto
  • James Vaughan University of Toronto
  • Steven Farber University of Toronto
  • Michael Widener University of Toronto
  • Eric Miller University of Toronto



accessibility, land use, travel behaviour


To capture the complex relationships between transportation and land use, researchers and practitioners are increasingly using place-based measures of transportation accessibility to support a broad range of planning goals. This research reviews the state-of-the-art in applied transportation accessibility measurement and performs a comparative evaluation of software tools for calculating accessibility by walking and public transit including ArcGIS Pro, Emme, R5R, and OpenTripPlanner using R and Python, among others. Using a case study of Toronto, we specify both origin-based and regional-scale analysis scenarios and find significant differences in computation time and calculated accessibilities. While the calculated travel time matrices are highly correlated across tools, each tool produces different results for the same origin-destination pair. Comparisons of the estimated accessibilities also reveal evidence of spatial clustering in the ways paths are calculated by some tools relative to others at different locations around the city. With the growing emphasis on accessibility-based planning, analysts should approach the calculation of accessibility with care and recognize the potential for algorithmic dependence in their calculated accessibility results.


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How to Cite

Higgins, C., Palm, M., DeJohn, A., Xi, L., Vaughan, J., Farber, S., Widener, M., & Miller, E. (2022). Calculating place-based transit accessibility: Methods, tools and algorithmic dependence. Journal of Transport and Land Use, 15(1), 95–116.